Swedish pianist Susan Yondt discovers forgotten gems
On Sunday, November 19 at 3:30pm, Susan Yondt, professor of piano at the at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm will present a program consisting entirely of music written by female Scandinavian composers on the Friends of Vienna series in the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. Yondt, who in previous seasons has performed programs of music on the series by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Wieck Schumann, Amy Cheney Beach, Maria Szymanowska and Cecile Chaminade, found it more challenging to develop a program of music completely devoted to female Scandinavian composers. “It required a bit of detective work to find the music”, says Yondt. “My program is called ‘Ladies First’, and it features music by Laura Netzell from Finland, Elfrida Andrée and Dorcas Norre from Sweden, and Agathe Backer Grøndahl from Norway”.
“Elfrida Andrée, organist in the Cathedral of Gothenburg, was Sweden’s first woman cathedral organist”, says Yondt. “Agathe Backer Grøndahl, was a good friend of Edvard Grieg and her compositions are influenced by his music. She wrote around four hundred pieces, and is quite well-known in Norway. Unfortunately, Laura Netzell and Dorcas Norre are not at all very well-known”.
“The first time that I discovered the music of Elfrida Andrée was when I performed her piano trio a few years back, an experience which I very much enjoyed. I hadn’t played Grøndahl before, but absolutely fell in love with her pieces, especially after I learned that she studied piano with Franz Liszt. I knew Dorcas Norre’s sister in Uppsala in the 1990’s, and she gave me a lot of her sister’s music. As I was looking for a Finnish woman composer from about the same period as Andrée and Grøndahl, I discovered Laura Netzell, a completely new acquaintance for me. Because Netzell wrote under a pseudonym, I missed her at first, because of the other name on the piece.”
“Last August, I performed this same program on the island of Öland, in Sweden, to a very appreciative audience. While the music was relatively unknown, the audience found that its quality was very high. It has been extremely interesting for me to explore these pieces and learning them has been a real pleasure. During the process, I often thought, this piece sounds like Mendelssohn, or that could be Schubert. But, in its own way, the music is unique. Composing music wasn’t even considered an occupation for women at that time and they had great difficulties in having their music published. So, it almost feels like my duty as a pianist to make these women composers better known. I hope that more musicians are inspired to play their works.”
In addition to her superb musicianship, Yondt, through her charming, spoken introductions to the various pieces on her programs, always manages to convey a sense of intimacy, rare in the recital hall.
Tickets: $12; $5 students. Information: www.friendsofvienna.org. Please note: All spaces in the lot at the rear of the Unity Church are available for free parking on Sundays.